Category Archives: long run

Lost for Words

Excited about my training – sort of lost for words, but long runs are averaging roughly 7:30 min/mile pace now (see previous post) and mileage is creeping slowly up. The rest in pics.

The time graph is kind of cool. Possibly more telling than actual mileage. Oh, and the pace chart, yes pleased about that one.

Otherwise, see Twitter!

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Rethinking the Long Run

Short version: I’m increasing the base pace for my long runs. It should be okay, so long as I am disciplined about running my recovery days as slow as necessary. The real topic of this post is agonizing over details.

It occurs to me that maybe I should be running my long runs faster. I’ve just gotten back to them, after an injury or two in July I wasn’t doing them. Now I’m up to 8 miles. I was reading up on Lydiard (as one should from time to time) and saw something about “it’s not Long Slow Distance it’s Long Steady Distance.” I dutifully consulted some pace charts. I could run my long runs a little faster, I mused.

This against the background of my coach who just shakes his head when people talk about long runs. Because usually they are, in his opinion, talking about slow running. And his assertion has always been that such running just teaches you to run slowly. Of course, that has to be right on some level. Coach may be a tad dogmatic — fanatic even — but he knows his stuff. “At a certain point you’re not doing anything in those 10 milers.”

The most recent spark was coming across a table of paces (p. 82) in the Hansons Marathon Method: A Renegade Path to Your Fastest Marathon. (I freely admit that I mostly bought the book for its various tables, pace charts, and such. I have no immediate plans to train for a marathon.) I noticed it indicates, for my goal of a 1:30 half marathon, long runs at 7:42 min/mile pace. This surprised me a little. Maybe I haven’t been attending to my running goals much recently. I looked over my (not very well kept) records. I’ve only run a handful of long runs under 8:00 min/mile pace and most of them were actual races. The other two exceptions were time trials the week or two preceding a race.

Is this a limiter in my training? I’ve run perhaps a half dozen 15-milers. Pace often around 8:30 min/mile or slower. Possibly it’s because I’m relatively new to this — have only run 4 half marathons. (Times roughly: 1:54, 1:43, 1:33, 1:35.) I’ve mostly been focusing in distance in my long runs, assuming that the tempo runs and speed work would take care of the pace. Maybe this will give me that little boost? I think it may very well.

But the initial realization led to a kind of dizzying, fortunately not-too-time-consuming, reappraisal of everything. I think this is because I’m bothered by the arbitrary nature of selecting a goal pace. You might say it’s not arbitrary, it’s based on your race results. True. But how do you know those are good results? So much of how we judge our results is based on assumptions. And assumptions drive me crazy. So I decided to consult a few of my favorite running books. I noted that since I’m not running anything even remotely like high mileage (nor have I ever) that leaning on a Lydiard-type philosophy for my training assumptions didn’t make much sense. I found some cool quotes, like this one from Matt Fitzgerald’s Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel:

In fact, lately I have noticed a trend among runners of trying to put a positive spin on their suffering avoidance by couching it in terms of a Lydiardian training philosophy. High-intensity training is risky, even dangerous, they say, and therefore its place in the training process must be minimized to prevent injury and overtraining. It’s not that these athletes are afraid of the intensity of high-intensity training. They’re just being smart.

and another quote:

So your natural pace does have a place in your training. However, natural pace becomes a limiting comfort zone for many runners.

I decided to read that book again. It is so good. And I continued to peruse the handful of books. I have included some of my findings from those book below, under “Ancillary Materials.” In the end, I got too into details, but I noted a few things.

  1. There is more than one way to skin a cat
  2. Long runs often include an important hill component — especially at the end — and thinking back, this is part of what kept my pace down in quite a few of my long runs
  3. Increasing my long run pace is probably a good idea — so long as I include rest weeks and a variety of approaches
  4. Pace, like distance, for the long run depends on the race for which you’re training.
  5. It is the tempo run which most bedevils me.
  6. For variety, I’ve already started consulting with a favorite freebie from Jason Fitzgerald’s Strength Running website, a pdf entitled: 52 Workouts, 52 Weeks, One Faster Runner. It’s worth a look. Recommended.
  7. You’ve got to trust your gut about what you can do. And face up to the fact that you can probably run faster, it’s about whether you’re willing to suffer enough to run to your potential. Fitzgerald, in particular, writes engagingly on this topic.

For the moment, I’m going to focus on running a solid, convincing 5k time. I really need to improve on my 20:11, which was done on a quite hilly course. Anything 19:30 or better should not be a problem. Ideally, I’d like to run it without my Garmin (or at least with pace not displayed), and really run hard. See what happens. You do not bonk on a 5k. Then, I’d like to use that as motivation/justification for pursuing my next goal: 1:30 for the half marathon.

(It is even possible I might sharpen that goal, but one thing at a time.)

Ancillary Materials:

Run Less, Run Faster (apparently referred jokingly in some circles as Run Less, Get Injured More) has a slew of paces in its various pace charts. Here you come to the problem of scale. While training for a 5k they suggest 5 miles at “mid-tempo” pace. If the goal is a 19:30 5k (roughly equivalent to a 1:30 half marathon) then that mid-tempo pace is 6:49 per min/mile pace. For a 10k, the long runs are done at “long-tempo” pace — 7:04 min/mile. For a half marathon, the suggestion for most of the training, is to run half-marathon pace + 20 seconds per mile — in this case around 7:11 min/mile (which just so happens to be “marathon pace”). For the marathon, they advocate training that starts about a minute faster than marathon pace (8:11 min/mile and gradually closing the gap. Marathon pace + 45 seconds, marathon pace + 30 seconds, etc.). This gives you a 3:08:20 marathon. The bottom line with the Run Less, Run Faster crew, is that your long run pace varies according to race. Not something I’ve given much thought to — but then again — can’t say there’s much to argue with there.

Brad Hudson’s Run Faster: From the 5k to the Marathon (a personal favorite) to my surprise, mostly advocates easy long runs for 5k training, adding progression runs for the 10k, half and marathon. The emphasis throughout seems to be finishing moderate for the last 10 – 20 minutes, and then progressing to finishing hard for the last 10 – 20 minutes. As the runs get longer, this only seems to make sense.

Matt Fitzgerald’s Brain Training for Runners (a book with a really long subtitle), another longtime favorite, tackles the issue in terms of “base pace,” defined as “more or less the pace you adopt naturally when going for a training run of a particular distance.” For my last half-marathon time, this range would be 8:44 – 7:53 min/mile. Which feels just about right. I’ve often noticed when going on a moderate, easy run, my pace often falls around 8:40 min/mile. For the race I’d like to run, the base pace is listed as 8:20 to 7:31 min/mile. Note that there’s a little overlap there. At the faster end, it’s not an easy pace for me, there’s some effort involved.

Finally, but not the least in any way, I checked the McMillan Pace Calculator. It gave me a range of 7:35 to 8:52 min/mile for long runs. So there it is. The 7:42 pace might be a little aggressive, but it’s not outlandish.

Race Report — Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon, 2013

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Short version:

Overall felt good, not great about this race, my third half. Certainly it’s a 10 minute PR over my 2011 race, which is nice, but not sure it really reflects the full measure of my recent training. To fully capitalize on that I still have a lot to learn about racing, for one thing.

What went right:

Preface fueling. I did some carb loading. Nothing crazy, a bagel here and there — and I went into the race fairly confident that my glycogen stores were topped up.

Confidence, focus: despite a lackluster workout last weekend, I was focused this morning, did my lunge matrix and ran some strides. I hydrated early and had no bathroom issues (seemed to come up a lot in training).

Training, long runs. Since I did several 15+ mile long runs in the weeks leading up to the race, the distance, though non-trivial, did not feel like the epic adventure of my first two half marathons. In fact, at several points I found myself scratching my head – “Wow, I can’t believe that was Los Olivos already” (6 miles).

Training, hills: I had noted a “modest hill” at the 5-mile mark, based on Garmin data from 2011, and slowed a little in anticipation, but said hill never materialized. I guess it just didn’t register given the madness in Griffith Park. Also, the modest hill was likely something of an artifact of a horizontally squashed graph I was reading in Garmin connect. #interpretingdata

What went okay.

Pacing. I went out a little fast, even though I was very much trying not to. Hard not to get pulled along, let others move ahead. With experience I think I might realize with more conviction that indeed I’m going to pass a lot of them later. Run your own race!

(I was amused by one woman who went out guns blazing, listening to music, playing air drums. Then at mile 3 she exclaimed “I can’t do this!”)

Pacing, hills. Even though I thought I was quite conservative on the hills (at one point around 8:00/mi pace) I still have the habit of attacking them. In training, good. In racing, it depends. There were two young women (1-20 age group, I’m guessing from UCSB, a coach-like woman threw them some gels before the first big hill and some instructions) that passed me around mile 6, looking all business. I passed them going up the hill at one point, which surprised me a little. Of course they passed me, I used their momentum to move past a group at one point, but they dropped me pretty quickly.

Pacing, downhill. I had assumed that taking the hills conservatively gave me license to blow out the long downhill section. But my splits show this was probably a bit overdone, as I slowed gradually and had a tough time with the final hill.

Pacing, general.
I want to reconstruct my mile splits, from the half-mile splits I was recording. Those tell me pretty clearly that my pacing is all over the place. This is a key area that I really need to work on.

Racing, general.
I placed 5th in my age group, but 2nd, 3rd and 4th were completely up for grabs! I need to toughen up. This might also fall under the heading of ’suffering’. I could have pushed harder. This aspect had even more impact than running smart, I think.

Beet juice!
On the good authority of Matt Fitzgerald I tried this. (There’s solid research that indicates up to 2.8% performance benefit.) Unclear about the result, but would like to try the commercially available shots as opposed to the indiscriminate dose of home blended.

Fueling, in-race. This was marginal, at best. I ended up relying on the race sport drink, which seemed to me pretty watery. Also, drinking from those aid stations is a skill I am far from mastering and find myself just wanting to get rid of the cup. I may need to find a gel that I tolerate.

What went horribly wrong. Fortunately, nothing. No early blowout, no late race bonk. My last split was my fastest, lending yet more credence to the Tim Noakes “central governor” theory.

Assessment? A good effort. I ran 7:05 pace, I think (forgot to hit the button at race end) right in line with training. And I think that 1:31 is easily within grasp and I may, in fact, do a beach race in the next few weeks — I want to capitalize on the fitness, not wait another two years! My training is superior to my race effort at this point. (That crazy workout April 7, for instance — now that is suffering!)

One thing that would be really helpful is to have a long distance person to race with. Something to ponder, not idly, either.

I’d gladly run this race again next year. The shirt was much nicer this year, the course is beautiful, and they cap the race at 3000 participants. I even availed myself of the free post-race massage (no legs). Recommended.

A Long Run

Had to go to the archives to find my last long run, i.e. 10 miles or longer. Had quite a few medium length, 7 mile, runs lately, naturally flowing out of the 7 miles in Central Park. Last 10 miler was back when I got the Hokas, on December 5th, “Hoka Time”.

Tried to run it slow, given the proximity to yesterday and tomorrow’s workouts.

1:32     10.00 miles     9:13 min/mile

10:07   9:43   9:45   9:28   9:21   9:08   8:39   8:31   8:15   9:10

Hoka Time!

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These arrived late yesterday, at what must be the tail end of the UPS truck’s route (out for delivery at 4 something a.m., delivered at 6:40 p.m.). Hoka One One Eva Stinsons, if I recall correctly the whole string. Today I took them out for an incautious spin. No gradual breaking in for these puppies. As soon as I put them on last night I had the energy of a Leprechaun. I needed to go! And so this morning I have updated my little “benchmarks” text file, as this was the fastest I’ve run 10 miles. Clearly these gigantic shoes are not slowing me down. (Perhaps I’ll write a “review” of them in a couple weeks.)

I was thinking a lot about form today, too. Keeping the arms compact, making them the engine. Especially focussing on that as I got tired. Recalling the comment I got out on the trail over the weekend: “Arms! Arms! No dead bird!”

1:17:58        10.04 miles        7:46 min/mile

When done, I noticed the shoe rubs against the top of my big toe in a way that may take some getting used to. But that’s what you get for running 10 miles on the first outing with a shoe. A bit silly. I also cleaned the shoes with a brush, in the fashion of my running group compadres. It was quite muddy, in places.

7:34   7:30   7:59   8:04   7:37   7:43   7:39   8:14   7:51   7:29

12.5 Miles and the Evil Smoothie

1:54/4:30     12.5 miles/28.36 miles        9:07 min/mile

Again, the first numbers are for today’s run, the latter is the week’s totals.

(The Garmin crapped out today, pre-run, seems to be having a problem holding its charge. I noticed a similar phenomenon yesterday and assumed I’d left it on at night, and made a point of charging it while I took the kids to school. But I know I didn’t leave the watch on last night.)

So, estimated, but based on many runs and taking note of time on the car clock, I think this is a pretty accurate estimate of time and distance. Just took it easy and focussed on form. Felt some energy from pushing through the hips, keeping head held high, etc.

Afterwards I had a glass of chocolate milk and then made a giant, evil almost no dairy (except for some whey protein powder) 32 ounce smoothie. Almond milk, mixed berries (frozen), pineapple (frozen), kale (frozen) — at this point it was tasting pretty weird so I added some agave, copious amounts of cinnamon and some vanilla and a few frozen strawberries — pretty good!